Fall comes a little early in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. The state’s most rural area – Caledonia County, Orleans County and Essex County – starts seeing fall foliage as early as mid-September, with peak color arriving around Oct. 1 (sometimes earlier).
Up along Route 114 and Route 105 in the far reaches of Essex County are where you’ll typically find some of the earliest Northeast Kingdom foliage. By the third week in September, plenty of bright fall color can be found across northeastern Vermont and in the higher elevations around the state.
Fall foliage in the Northeast Kingdom is worth exploring. Here are my top Northeast Kingdom foliage picks:
Darling Hill Road
This five-mile, tree-lined, scenic drive between Lyndonville and East Burke is one of the prettiest spots in Vermont. Here you’ll find views of Burke Mountain, Mount Pisgah, Mount Hor, Lake Willoughby, and Kirby Mountain. I lived on Darling Hill Road in the mid-1990s, and I doubt I’ll ever have such a scenic address again.
Getting there: Take Route 114 north from Lyndonville for about a half-mile and turn left onto Darling Hill Road. The farther north you go on Darling Hill Road, the better the views.
Northeast Kingdom Lakes and Ponds
The Northeast Kingdom is home to the most lakes in Vermont, including 35,575 acres of public lakes and ponds, according to the Vermont Explorer’s Guide. Lake Willoughby in Westmore is the Northeast Kingdom’s most dramatic lake, and it’s always a popular spot to visit during fall foliage.
I recently came upon Jobs Pond in Westmore for the very first time and instantly fell in love. The pond is secluded with very little development and includes views of high mountain cliffs. To get there, take Abbott Hill Road/Newark Road from Route 114 in Brighton/Island Pond, and look for signs for Jobs Pond. If you’re in the Northeast Kingdom this fall, you’ll also find lovely spots at so many lakes and ponds, including Lake Seymour in Morgan, Newark Pond in Newark, Ricker Pond in Groton, and Harvey’s Lake in Barnet.
Prospect Hill Observatory in Brownington
Brownington is a picture-perfect little town in Orleans County that is home to the Old Stone House Museum. Open May to October, the museum dates back to 1836 and served as a dormitory for the Orleans County Grammar School.
Its headmaster — also the building’s architect — was Alexander Twilight, the first African-American to attend an American College (Middlebury) or serve in the Vermont Legislature.
Walk through the Brownington Historic District and stroll over to Prospect Hill Observatory – a tall gazebo that offers views of Lake Willoughby to the south and Lake Memphremagog to the north.
Burke Mountain and Jay Peak
It pretty much goes without saying that one – or both – of these resorts should be on your must-list for fall. Ride Vermont’s only tram to the top of Jay Peak and see foliage in Vermont and Quebec from 3,968 feet. Take a scenic chairlift ride at Burke Mountain and see beautiful views of Lake Willoughby, Mount Pisgah and Mount Hor, Mount Mansfield, and New Hampshire’s Mount Washington.
You can also take the Burke Mountain Auto Toll Road to the summit at 3,267 feet. Lift rides at both resorts are offered through mid-October, and the Burke Mountain Auto Toll Road is open until late October.
On a Hill in Peacham
I recently wrote about the road to Peacham being a perfect scenic drive during Vermont’s fall foliage season. When you get to Peacham, go up Church Street and park near the Peacham Fire Station on your right.
Walk in the field behind the fire station and up the hill, where you’ll see a gorgeous New England scene that includes the steepled Peacham Congregational Church (one of the oldest and most photographed churches in Vermont), rolling fields and glorious mountains. You will be so happy you stopped to soak up the view.